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Putting in the hours

I believe in working smart – that if you get super focussed and in the zone you will maximise your productivity and achieve far more in that one hour than in three hours at 70% focus.

But I also believe in putting in the hours.

Elon Musk, creator of Tesla and Space X said, “Work like hell. I mean you just have to put in 80 to 100 hour weeks every week. [This] improves the odds of success. If other people are putting in 40 hour work weeks and you’re putting in 100 hour work weeks, then even if you’re doing the same thing you know that… you will achieve in 4 months what it takes them a year to achieve.”

Putting in the hours will give you a huge advantage. Everything in life takes time, so by doing extra hours you will get better, faster.

A really handy exercise to do is to map out your week in detail. In a spreadsheet list every activity you do and be as detailed as you can. Once you block out sleep and school and transit time and maybe your casual job, you will be left with a few dozen hours in the week.

You have many choices when it comes to what you do with those hours. Play video games, see friends, practice guitar.

Try to make it a rule to give at least 30% of them to your goal – whatever that is.

If your goal is to get in to University, give that 30% to studying. If your goal is to become an actor, give that 30% to creating youtube videos. If your goal is to become a singer, spend 30% of your free time making music.

Putting in the hours is what separates an expert from everyone else.

Destroying the ‘not good enough’ mindset

I work with students a lot and I get constantly frustrated with the ‘can’t do it’ or ‘i’m not good enough’ attitude.

I was chatting to a student a few weeks ago that was asking about alternative pathways in to University because they didn’t think their marks were going to be good enough. I told them they shouldn’t think like that – they still had both trials and the HSC exams to come. The student then told me that I misunderstood, they were only in year 10!

It blows my mind that people can think this way.

Listen to me friend, this one is for you.

There is no one else that has as much control over your life as you do. If you want something in life just work for it. Work like nothing else matters.

If you want to go to University to study medicine, but doubt you can do it – stop. You can. The only thing that will stop you from getting there is your own inaction.

The HSC has very little to do with talent and is much more about hard work.  If you hustle and get rid of the things that will distract you, there is nothin you can’t achieve.

You are good enough. You can do it.

Get to work!

Making the most of every opportunity to connect with your teen

Days are busy. You are juggling work and dropping kids off and picking them up and making lunches and preparing dinners. It can be exhausting.

Teens can also be a lot of work in themselves. I mean emotionally. It can be hard to keep up with the range of emotions firing at you at all different times of the day.

Amidst all this chaos and the emotions, it can be hard to find a way to connect with them properly. I heard a stat recently that the average father will talk to his teen for less than 2 minutes a day – a scary statistic that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for real connection.

There are 3 great opportunities for parents to connect with their teens that often go unnoticed.

When they leave in the morning

When they get home in the afternoon.

When they go to bed.

These are essentially doorways that they walk through – doorways that give you an opportunity to impart some sense of hope and acceptance.

As they leave in the morning they are leaving the comfort and security of home in to the unknown, so your words of encouragement and acceptance will carry them through the day.

When they get home in the afternoon they should be able to find love and acceptance as soon as they walk through the doorway, regardless of what has happened that day.

When they say goodnight, they are asking you to acknowledge them. This is your chance to connect – their walls are down and they are looking for connection.

Utilise these 3 doorways – treasure them and prioritise them. They are only a few minutes each, but it is an opportunity to make a lasting impression.

Teaching the value of habitual excellence

Most mornings I go to the gym at 5am. It is really, really early. I am always surprised by how many people are there at that time – joining me in the pain of working out before dawn.

What most impresses me are parents that bring their teens to the gym at that time. Dragging them out of bed at that hour can’t be easy – or perhaps more challenging would be getting them in to bed at a reasonable time the night before – but somehow they do it. Every morning.

I was talking to a friend there, now in her 30’s and asked her how long she had been coming along to the gym at that time. She told me she had come every weekday since she was 15, when her parents used to get her out of bed and drag her along. She hated it at first. In fact, more than at first. Most of the high school years she resented it. But it was after school that she began to appreciate it. Not because it became any easier, but simply because she had turned it in to a habit that followed her in to her adult life.

I often see people complain or struggle with going to the gym, but I personally don’t find this at all. For me it is just a habit, something I do everyday. I don’t think about it. It is like drinking water or breathing air.

The teenage years are a crucial time for teens as they build habits that will last with them the rest of their lives. Sometimes they don’t even realise they are creating these habits, they just become a part of who they are. There are no other times in a person’s life that will impact their identity as much as these years.

Intentionally creating a habit of excellence is not easy. It will be tiring and draining and probably cause conflict, but it will be so worth it.

This isn’t just about going to the gym. It is about everything that impacts a teens life. Their studies, their friends, their goals. By building good habits now they won’t become challenging later on – they will just become part of who they are.

I challenge you to talk with your teen and identify one good habit they want to build – reading a book every night, going for a walk every morning, studying every afternoon – and work with them to see it happen. It will be something they thank you for later!

Should Selective Schools be means tested?

Recently the selective school entrance test has come under fire for allowing it to be ‘gamed’ through tutoring, therefore disadvantaging students from lower socioeconomic households who are unable to afford tutors.

The HSC has the same issue, but this is probably more prevalent because of the financial benefits of selective schools. I have known many families that have had a selective school as their first priority, with elite private schools as their back up option; so over 6 years of schooling it would be a difference of almost a hundred thousand dollars just in school fees.

The proposal by the state government is to change the format of the selective exam so that it tests generic skills rather than a test that can be learnt and rehearsed. The main issue is that any exam can be prepared for – they can’t stop students from preparing no matter how hard they try. Unfortunately the ability to prepare for an exam does favour wealthier families who can afford better support.

The other suggestion is to means test students based on household income. However this would probably work in reverse and discriminate against wealthy families, which I don’t see as any better. This will increase the divide – and my assumption is it will increase the number of students in the lower half working with tutors because they know they have a greater chance of finding success.

My suggestion would be to make the entrance exam a viva-voce of sorts; an interview where students are given random questions and need to communicate these responses back to the markers verbally. I would also include an section on persuasive writing, and rather than give them a booklet of 40 general ability questions, I would give them one unique challenging question that tests their reasoning ability and logic.

Of course, this is still not perfect. It neglects mathematical ability which is hugely important, and will favour students who are naturally outgoing and can communicate better over those who are introverted, but I think the ability to defend ideas and think critically is a crucial skill. This also becomes a bit more of a logistical challenge – with up to 15,000 students applying for entry every year, giving them the time and space to be interviewed fairly will be very challenging.

My guess is that in lieu of an ideal solution, nothing will change. The exam will remain as is – 3 x 40 minute exams plus a 20 minute writing section. The competition is fierce, but it is an exam that students can master with the right preparation. If your child is considering a selective school and you are fortunate to be in a position to help them achieve this through the support of a tutor, please get in touch today – selective school places are filling up fast.